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Volunteers Meet Alzheimer’s with Kindness

By June 18, 2017No Comments2 min read

By Heidy Vargas

What comes to mind when you think of volunteering? For Ann Sheahan, John Gagnon and Cindy Wiktorek, volunteers in Shepherd House, St. Ann Center’s Alzheimer’s and dementia care unit, it’s become a rewarding way of life.

All three began volunteering after retiring. Ann, who learned about St. Ann Center from friends, started four years ago. Cindy, a longtime admirer of the center’s mission, decided she wanted to be part of it 18 months ago. John was introduced to the center by his young grandson, who attends the Stein Campus childcare program in the Dragonfly classroom.

John particularly enjoys talking with Shepherd House clients. “If you haven’t been around people with Alzheimer’s, you’ll find you have to change your way of thinking,” he said. “You might talk with them and not get a response—or at least one you can hear or understand.” Still, conversation and spending time together are important ways of connecting.

For Ann, Shepherd House is a real-life example of St. Ann Center’s mission of service for those most in need. She finds the staff kind, generous and friendly—“they care seriously about the clients,” she said. Ann also sees intergenerational activities as beneficial. The day care children are regular visitors to Shepherd House, often joining the adults in making arts and crafts.

Cindy is also a fan of linking the generations. “St. Ann Center tries to make sure that everybody feels welcome, cared for and included, no matter what stage of life they are in,” she said. All three volunteers agree the most valuable perk of being involved at St. Ann Center is the friendships they’ve formed with staff, clients and one another.

“I was apprehensive when I first started (volunteering), but once I got comfortable, I felt happy and lucky,” John said. “I love telling people that I come here.” Cindy has also developed a special bond with the Shepherd House clients. “Even if they can’t talk back, they know that you are speaking with them,” she said. “You have no idea how far a bit of kindness will go.”


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